National Press Club

Wife of imprisoned former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed urges his release

April 30, 2015 | By Lorna Aldrich | lorna2@verizon.net

Amal Clooney, the lawyer representing imprisoned former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, told a Club Newsmaker audience on April 30 that his trial was politically motivated.

Amal Clooney, the lawyer representing imprisoned former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, told a Club Newsmaker audience on April 30 that his trial was politically motivated.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

The wife and human rights lawyers of imprisoned former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed urged his release at an April 30 Newsmaker, charging that his trial and imprisonment violated basic human rights and legal principles.

In 2008 Nasheed became the first democratically elected president of the Maldives, an multi-island country southwest of India in the Indian Ocean.

Nasheed left office in 2012 under what supporters said was a coup. The following year, he won a plurality of the vote but the Maldives supreme court annulled the results, returning to power the same family that had ruled for decades.

Nasheed was arrested in February, convicted of terrorism, and sentenced to 13 years imprisonment.

His wife, Laila Ali, said Nasheed has been held in solitary confinement virtually the entire time in a prison a two-hour boat ride from the capital. She expressed serious concern about his condition. He has been imprisoned 10 times and sometimes tortured over his career as a journalist and politician and suffers from the results, she said.

Lawyer Amal Clooney, currently at Columbia University, summarized the case Nasheed's legal team is filing with the United Nations: the trial was politically motivated, no evidence of Nasheed's knowledge of involvement in the alleged terrorist act of arresting a judge was presented, two of the judges had been witnesses for the prosecution, there was no access to counsel and Nasheed was physically abused.

"The violations are so blatant that...some members of UN have already felt comfortable concluding that the trial was unfair and the detention unjust," Clooney said.

The group will meet with officials in the State Department, Congress and the White House in D.C. to urge official protests to the Maldives government, Clooney said.

Jared Genser, a lawyer and founder of Freedom Now, said the current president, the brother of a former dictator, is under pressure because a former ally, who had 24 percent of the vote in 2013, has switched allegiance to Nasheed, bringing his likely support to 65 percent of the ellectorate.

"The government is frankly very afraid of President Nasheed and what he stands for and they don't want the voice of the people, in my view, to be heard," Genser said.

Ali said public protests have been ongoing since Nasheed's arrest, one drawing 20,000 people. People from other islands are expected to come to the capital for a May 3 protest, but boats have been burned to keep them away, she said.